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Ever since Buddy Melges’ induction in the first class of 2011, ice boaters have numbered among the elite sailors honored by the National Sailing Hall of Fame (NSHOF). Other hard water inductees include Peter Barrett, Olaf & Peter Harken, Jan & Meade Gougeon, Bill Bensten, Herbert Lawrence Stone (who authored books and articles), Bill Mattison, and Jane Pegel.
The sailing community’s full recognition of the sport of ice yachting has culminated with the inclusion of an iceboat in the new NSHOF museum in Newport, Rhode Island.
When visitors enter the impressive interactive exhibition hall, they will notice six boats hanging overhead from the exposed wooden rafters of the historic former armory. One of those six is an iceboat representing our community and those who live to “Think Ice.”
The NSHOF asked Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club Nite sailor Don Sanford (the driving force behind Bill Mattison’s induction), myself, and others for an iceboat. The museum had hoped to hang a Class A Skeeter, but the wide plank would have taken up too much space. They chose one that would fit – the most popular iceboat globally, a DN.
Peter Harken asked that the boat not be a “fixer-upper” but a fully fitted racing boat. The NSHOF accepted Four Lakes Ice Yacht Club member Doug Kolner’s offer to donate his complete modern DN.
The DNs natural wood hull and plank, built in a small garage in Monona, Wisconsin, are true to the roots of the DN’s humble beginnings at the Detroit News hobby shop in the 1930s. Doug built the boat using standard DN plans, and it symbolizes all the iceboat builders who enjoy kicking up some dust and mixing epoxy in their garage shops.
Current members of the NSHOF’s influence is evident in the fact that the boat was built using Gougeon brothers epoxy and Harken brothers fittings technology. Doug recognized NSHOF member Bill Mattison and Green Lake Ice Yacht Club’s Joe Norton as the builders who had influenced his iceboat building know-how.
“The design, construction, and handling of an ice boat is an art rather than an exact science.” Herbert L. Stone
Yachting Magazine editor Herbert L Stone, editor of the first ice sailing book in the United States, is being inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame. Stone edited the book “Ice Boating” in 1913 and also wrote the forward to “Wings On the Ice” (published in 1938), one of the best books on the subject ever written.
I can find no evidence that Stone ever owned an iceboat but he had a tremendous influence on the sport by helping to popularizing it through articles in Yachting Magazine. Stone played a big part in reviving the Ice Yacht Challenge Pennant (IYCP) when he encouraged the IYCP trustees of the New Hamburgh Ice Yacht Club to pass on the trusteeship to the Eastern Ice Yachting Association.
Read Ray Ruge’s 1950 article about the revival of the IYCP published in Yachting World here.
Stone’s forward in “Wings On the Ice”, written 81 years ago, still rings true today.
Perhaps one of the chief charms of ice boating is the fact that the implements with which the sport is played, just as in the case of sailing yachts, have not been reduced to a fixed, static quantity. The design, construction, and handling of an ice boat is an art rather than an exact science. There is still room for the play of new ideas, for the expression of individual talent, for the exercise of skill, knowledge, and ingenuity.
Herbert L. Stone
Excerpt of forward to Winds on The Ice, Frederic M. Gardiner
Other ice sailors who have been inducted into the NSHOF are: Peter Barrett, Bill Bentsen,Jan Gougeon, Meade Gougeon, Olaf Harken, Peter Harken, and Buddy Melges
Doing what they loved, brothers Jan and Meade Gougeon during a day of ice sailing.
The moon walk wasn’t the only technological accomplishment in 1969, it was 50 years ago when two brothers in Michigan figured out a better way to build iceboats and developed two-part epoxy. I remember the transition from Weldwood to WEST SYSTEMS epoxy. The excess Weldwood would form hard amber droplets under my dad’s long iceboat building bench. As a kid, they were kind of fun to play with until one day, those little pieces were gone having been replaced by two-part epoxy that didn’t drip. “Gougeon” is used in every class of iceboat build – from the biggest stern-steerers to youth Ice Optimists.
Read more about the 50th anniversary celebration over at the IDNIYRA website.
MICHIGANDER on Pewaukee Lake for the 2018 Wisconsin Stern Steerers Association championship.
The biannual magazine from the makers of “what holds us together”, Gougeon’s (West Systems) Epoxy Works, highlights one of the finest Class A stern-steerers ever crafted, Eric Sawyer’s MICHIGANDER. Get a free print or digital subscription to the magazine here.
“Others quickly picked up the bow-steering design, and a few large bow-steerers were built…A Class B boat (250 square feet of sail) was built by Starke Meyer of Milwaukee and he ran away from everything else on the lakes”. Photo from the Carl Bernard Scrapbook Collection.
While researching last week’s Throw Back Thursday Gar Wood regatta post, I discovered a book that wasn’t on my radar or in my library, Meade Gougeon’s “Evolution of Modern Sailboat Design” written with co-author Ty Knoy. The stern-steerer iceboat on the cover hinted this was not a typical book about soft water sailboats with an obligatory paragraph about iceboats. Meade masterfully combined the story of iceboat design, mechanics, and history as he explained why some boats are faster than others. If you collect books about iceboating, this is an essential volume and available on Amazon.
Meade’s Bigger Picture Thinking:
- “Many of the refinements in sails and rigging that have been developed since World War I originated on iceboats.”
- “The first bow-steerer of any importance was built in 1931 by the Joy brothers, sailmakers in Milwaukee.” …”the Joy brothers and Walter Beauvais (of Williams Bay, WI) who came up with the machine (BEAU SKEETER) that retired the big boats forever…It went on the ice in Lake Geneva in 1933 and was an instant success.”
- Iceboaters were quick to take up the idea’s of Dr. Manfred Curry, a German sailor who came up with the idea of planing full length battens to curve into an airfoil. (An idea banned in most soft-water racing classes at the time of the book’s publication.) Iceboaters in the 1930s were using revolutionary ideas like rotating masts, wing masts, and full length battens while soft-water classes were outlawing advancements. The few softwater classes that allowed rotating masts (in 1976) were Midwestern scows, from the same part of the world where a good many iceboaters are also scow sailors in the summer.
- The aviator, Charles Lindbergh, (who spent a semester here the university in Madison and motored around Lake Mendota on an ice sled) “is said to have had a hand in the design of a very advanced rig” that was put on the Class A stern-steerer, DEUCE II, which was owned by Lindbergh’s cousin, Joseph Lodge of Detroit.
“On DEUCE II, with the help of Lindbergh, Lodge installed a rotating wing mast, believed to be the first ever used…DEUCE II was a hard luck boat, plagued by rigging failures, as Lodge challenged for the Stuart Cup and the Hearst International trophies in the 1930s.” Photo from the Carl Bernard Scrapbook Collection.
“Most of the troubles [from DEUCE II] were ironed out in DEUCE III, a remodeled version of DEUCE II, and in 1938, Lodge won both trophies to become champion of the world for Class A.” Photo from the Carl Bernard Scrapbook Collection.